The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 is one of the primary laws governing the provision of financial assistance to veterans of the US armed forces to pursue higher educational and vocational training. This bill seeks to address various social issues associated with the reintegration of veterans into society through positive reinforcement. Higher education enables the pursuit of high-paying careers and the resolve of subsequent financial and healthcare issues associated with unemployment. Despite being the third bill in line to provide such benefits, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 required significant amendments to simplify and standardize its application in practice.
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The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, also known as the Post-9/11 GI Act, is a law that provides educational benefits to all military and ex-military personnel seeking to pursue tuition or an academic degree. The legislation was first adopted in 2008 and the second time in 2010, after significant amendments that addressed the majority of issues that the initial document had. The legislation was introduced into the legislative process by Senator Jim Webb in January 2007 (Dortch, 2011). The support for the bill was also the point of contention between presidential candidates during the 2008 election. The purpose of this paper is to analyze various conditions, links, and effects the bill had in shaping American society.
The bill itself provides multiple benefits to veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Forces, and National Guard, which are also transferable to the immediate next of kin should the candidate have served or agreed to serve for 10 years or more. The primary effects and benefits provided to the veterans are as follows:
- Educational tuition benefits for 36-month academic programs. These benefits are varied from state to state, with the compensation usually depending on the time of active duty service. The minimum requirement is 90 days, which would account for receiving 40% of the maximum compensation. Education in specialized private schools also enables the government to compensate for the difference to up to 100%, making education free for certain veterans.
- Living payments for veterans that require to travel to another state to get an education. Payments vary from state to state based on local legislation and market prices. Not available for online students.
- Benefits are available for up to 15 years after the completion of service.
- The benefits can be used to obtain a degree from a university outside of the US.
- Additional 1,000 dollars a year are provided to pay for the books and other educational supplies required by the veteran student.
- Additional payments to cover tests, certifications, and licensing (“Post-9/11,” 2011; “Post-9/11 GI Bill,” n.d.).
It must be noted that after the introduction of the bill in 2008, the number of veterans applying for higher education and vocational training increased considerably. The same effects were seen after the introduction of similar GI Bills in the aftermath of major wars that the US had to participate in. Increased turnover was compensated by higher enrollment rates.
The purpose of this bill was to improve the social conditions for veterans of the US armed forces and associated services, such as the National Guard. Many social factors played into the introduction of this bill, such as the increased vulnerability of veteran populations. Due to the conditioning of the service, the highly stressful nature of the combat environment, and the high risk of death and injury, veterans have a hard time reintroducing themselves into society. While some of the skills learned in the army may be applied to peaceful mundane applications, the majority of them do not. Drivers and pilots tend to find employment in civil aviation and transportation services.
Other individuals, however, without the skills of handling specialized machinery, tend to work in the low-pay employment sector that does not require any particular skills. As a result, they are highly susceptible to poverty. Veterans make up 12% of the US’ entire homeless population, with over 60,000 individuals suffering from complete or partial homelessness (Best, 2017).
Social vulnerability and the inability to find decent employment result in high rates of suicide and depression for present and former service members. According to the US Veterans Affairs Department, 20 veterans a day die from suicide. These complex social issues require a multi-layered approach. The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 is supposed to help address the underlying issues of employment, homelessness, depression, and suicide, by a comprehensible benefits package for veterans that would help them find a job, earn a decent income and reintegrate them into the society.
The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 is not the first of its kind. Similar laws have been adopted at the end of World War 2 as well as after the Korean War and the Vietnam War (Mettler, 2005). Every large and long-term engagement created significant issues in American society. During all three wars, the US utilized conscripts to complete its military objectives abroad. That involved large-scale deployment of thousands of troops over prolonged periods. The after-effects of such actions left many veterans unable to reintegrate into society. This posed significant humanitarian and economic problems.
The first GI Act was adopted in 1944 to help accommodate veterans that were deployed in Africa, Europe, and the Pacific theaters of war. Over 7.6 million people were deployed by the US armed forces between 1944 and 1956 (Mettler, 2005). The majority of these individuals were men, who needed to be brought back and reintegrated into the industry and the society, which experienced a shortage of employees. The GI Act supported benefits for high education and vocational schools.
As a result, many former soldiers managed to receive training with high government benefits or even for free, which contributed to the increase in the highly professional workforce and benefitted the research and industrial sectors as a whole. Similar motions followed after the Korean and Vietnam wars and helped make the career military profession more attractive to the general populace after conscription was abolished (Altschuler & Blumin, 2009).
The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 sought to build up upon these practices and adjust the bill to the realities of the modern economy, increased tuition costs, and specific requirements for employment. The realities of the US economy are different from what they used to be after the Second World War and during the 1960s-1970s when the country was being run by Keynesian economics and enjoyed a stable and dominant position in the aftermath of the war. The Act seeks to balance various budgetary constraints and ensure an easier application and privilege retaining process for the veterans.
The bill was widely supported by various veteran organizations in the US, such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Disabled American Veterans organization, the institution for paralyzed veterans in America, and the Student Veterans Association (Best, 2017). The American Legion, in particular, is notorious for proposing previous versions of the bill to the American government, thus having experience in such matters. The Democratic Party announced its support of the Bill in 2008, which was one of the driving points in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. He expressed early support for Webb’s version of the document.
The society expressed benevolence towards veterans and the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, showing overwhelming positive views on improving the educational situation for soldiers and ex-service members (Best, 2015). The majority of the polls indicate that the bill was a popular one both among the veterans and the general public, showing a shift in views towards the American military when compared to the aftermath of the Vietnam War, where the public opinion was predominantly against the country’s militaristic agenda.
The opposition to this bill was three-fold, with each partisan party having its complaints about the introduction of a state-funded assistance program for veterans. The Republican Party and its candidate John McCain opposed the bill supported by the Democrats for several reasons. They viewed the resources provided to the program as excessive and encouraging shorter service times to obtain the benefits of higher education.
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The Republican party had its version of the veteran education assistance program, which involved increasing the basic education benefit by 3,000 dollars a year with the additional benefit of 4,200 dollars a year for individuals that served longer than 12 years (Best, 2017). The Republican Party approved the initial version of the bill that had additional benefits after 15 years of service, but the 2010 version of the bill reduced it to 10 years.
Another source of opposition came from the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated significant retention drops in military personnel as the result of the bill, stating that many recruits would flock to join the army only to receive the educational benefits rather than out of a desire to serve their country. The retention drop was predicted to go as far as 16% (Dortch, 2011). The counterargument presented for this kind of opposition stated that while the rotation of troops might increase, the number of potential recruits would compensate for it.
The third reason for opposition constituted the fact that the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 had many internal issues within itself and was not polished enough to be adopted as a general policy. According to Dortch (2011), the primary issues found with the existing version of the document were the following:
- The initial text of the bill excluded full-time duty National Guard members from receiving educational benefits granted under Title 10, Title 32, and Title 38.
- The initial set of educational and vocational options was much shorter, limiting the opportunities for veteran education.
- Attaching tuition and fees benefits to state standards was creating an overly complex and unequal system, as the highest in-state tuitions and fees differ from one state to another.
- Distance learning and online studies were not eligible in the initial draft of the document.
- Veterans were limited to the reimbursement of only one license or certificate when certain vocations (such as nursing) required several.
- Commissioned officers deployed in non-combat roles (Public Health Services, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, etc.) were also excluded from the bill.
- The responsibilities between the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 and the Veteran Affairs Act were overlapping.
The act came to passing only after major provisions were made to satisfy the majority of these concerns.
Social Justice Issues
The basis behind the introduction of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 is rooted in the concept of social justice. As it was put by the Virginian Senator Jim Webb, society owes a debt of gratitude for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for their country (Best, 2017). The educational support given to them is justified by the need to repay that debt. In addition, veteran constitutes for a very vulnerable population subgroup exposed to unemployment, homelessness, injury, as well as various health and psychological problems. Although the bill seeks to improve educational opportunities for veterans, it indirectly affects all of these issues by providing a stable foundation for veterans to build their lives upon.
However, there is controversy with the act in regards to how far does social justice goes. The primary questions are raised towards the inclusion of non-combat roles into the program. Numerous other services place their members on the line, which are not covered by the program, such as firefighters, emergency rescue services, and others (Best, 2017). There are no additional provisions to protect the rights of minorities within the veteran community, which is a recurring issue for the GI Bills (Herbold, 1994).
The last issue is the comparative value of the program and the inability of veterans that served before 2001 to receive its benefits. All previous GI Bills did not have any fixed terms as to when could the individual apply for such. It caused an issue of the erosion of value, as the benefits under the previous bills were no longer enough to substantially cover the costs of tuition (Best, 2017). Older veterans are, thus, stuck in limbo, as the old acts are no longer enough and the new ones do not cover everyone.
The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 was a significant improvement over the initial bill adopted in 2008. The amendments included in it helped address a good portion of issues that the previous document had, significantly simplifying the process of obtaining assistance and increasing the number of potential applicants for government aid. The bill also served the purpose of improving the value of the support received by the veterans, as the previous acts and bills adopted more than 30 years ago have lost their connection with reality and required significant updates.
Nevertheless, the act in its present form is not perfect. It does not cover veterans who served before 2001, leaving out a good portion of individuals who were guaranteed assistance under the previous bills. The strong sides of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 are its inclusion of non-combat roles and the ability to transfer tuition privileges to family and children, creating greater value for soldiers with families. Overall, the act is an improvement and facilitates greater access to education for the veterans.
Altschuler, G., & Blumin, S. (2009). The GI Bill: The new deal for veterans. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Best, J. (2017). Images of issues: Typifying contemporary social problems. New York, NY: Routledge.
Dortch, C. (2011). The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, as enacted. Web.
Herbold, H. (1994). Never a level playing field: Blacks and the GI Bill. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 6, 104-108.
Mettler, S. (2005). Soldiers to citizens: The GI Bill and the making of the greatest generation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Post-9/11 GI Bill. (n.d.). Retrieved from Altschuler, G., & Blumin, S. The GI Bill: The new deal for veterans. Oxford University Press.